While this commercial spot for Pamela the Living Doll is meant to sell influential young girls on what is expected to be the hottest doll on store shelves, Pam is hardly the star of this intriguingly manipulative TV advertisement. Everything about this ad clearly screams familiar movie character that children across the globe adore. The nighttime wooded setting, the familiar mysterious blue-lighting cast from the spaceship, and then there’s those whacked out aliens with a look that screams pop-culture cash-in. Things become all the more clear when the youthful “ExtraTerrestrial” shows up, and with the slightly elongated fingers, those big blue dreamy eyes and the oddly sick complexion, it suddenly all seem too familiar.
Clearly we are dealing with a company that was purposefully using the emotional attachment and love for E.T. to sell its product to unsuspecting girls who would not yet know enough to see through the advertising ruse (phew, now that’s a sentence). Pamela the Living Doll was one of many animatronic dolls that were spawned in the wake of the incredibly popular Teddy Ruxpin, which was (perfect for Slayer tapes) also created by the same toy manufacturer, World of Wonder. Instead of audio cassettes (no Slayer?!), Pamela used what were called activity cards that sent her and her youthful owner on trips to various places; for example, the zoo, shopping trips, out to dinner, camping and even out top pick up hookers. Okay, that camping part might not be so true.
Cashing in on the success of Ruxpin is to be expected, but it’s quite fascinating to witness advertisers use such an iconic character in a way that is obviously trying to grab children’s attention beyond the product itself. The E.T. wannabe is just different enough to keep from being sued by Amblin Entertainment, but the similarities are obvious to the point that the association with E.T. is easily made (a la Mac and Me), especially for the target demographic (stupid kids with their parent’s endless supply of cash). Laying it right out on the line, if Pamela the Living Doll is good enough for E.T., then she has got to be good enough for little Suzy, right? Well, I suppose that’s the genius behind this television ad, but as smart as it may have seemed back then, Pamela didn’t quite capture the hearts of little girls like E.T. did. I guess this is a case where the kids won the battle of wits.